The thousands of courageous Sunderland men and women who have laid down their lives in war are today rightly honoured for making the ultimate sacrifice in defence of our freedom.
However, although the names of some still live on through official war memorials, a unique online tribute to all our local heroes needs urgent support to ensure their bravery is never forgotten.
The North East War Memorials Project (NEWMP), a registered charity with a small band of dedicated volunteers, aims to ensure that every single person who falls in war is remembered.
Sadly, there is a problem. The project’s website is over a decade old and creaking at the seams.
It requires an urgent upgrade and, unless £45,000 can be raised, this valuable resource will disappear.
Not only would our region lose an indispensable source of history and heritage should this happen, but our final links with many local heroes of the past would also be severed.
This would indeed be a sad loss – which is why I am supporting NEWMP’s appeal. For just a few pounds people can sponsor an on-line memorial and ensure all our heroes are forever remembered.
More than 25,000 Sunderland soldiers stepped up to fight for King and Country in the Great War – with one in ten never returning. A great many more men and women have died in subsequent wars.
The names of over 7,000 Sunderland fallen are recorded on the NEWMP site, including my Great Uncle George Ryall – who worked as a tram conductor for Sunderland Corporation before the war.
George was killed in action at the Battle of Arras in April 1917, after coming under heavy shelling and machine gun fire on the front line. He left a wife and two children back in Westcott Terrace, Roker.
Our family is lucky. George’s bravery is recalled on several surviving local memorials – including the Roll of Honour at St Andrew’s Church in Roker and on a wooden plaque at Sunderland Minster.
We can still visit these memorials, and pay tribute to him.
A great many other local memorials have, however, been lost over time, such as those in churches, chapels and businesses bombed in the Second World War.
This is where the NEWMP on-line memorial is vital. It allows each, and every, North East war hero to be remembered.
The sacrifice of all those who lost their lives should never be forgotten.